The first graveyard believed to be named "Boot Hill" is in Dodge City, Kansas.
The term came from the fact that many buried there were gunmen and cowboys who "died with their boots on" -- meaning that they died violently in gunfights or by hanging, and not in their sleep by natural causes.
The term "Boot Hill" became commonplace throughout the Old West, with some Boot Hills becoming more famous than others, such as Dodge City, Kansas, Deadwood, South Dakota, and of course Tombstone, Arizona.
Because of Wyatt Earp's autobiography which made the unknown gunfight near the OK Corral famous since the 1930s, today the most famous "Boot Hill" is Tombstone's Boothill Graveyard.
Formerly called the "Tombstone Cemetery", the rather small plot of ground features the graves of Ah Lum who was known as "China Mary," and others such as John Heath who was lynched.
Of course there are the graves of Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury who were the three men killed at the now famous O.K. Corral.
Boot Hill in Tombstone is believed to hold over 300 people, 205 of which are recorded.
The reason for the discrepancy is that Chinese and Jewish immigrants were actually buried there without record.
There is a separate Jewish cemetery nearby with some markers restored, and there are also marked graves of Chinese. However, most of the loss was due to neglect of grave markers and theft of these wooden relics as souvenirs.
For example, when former Tombstone Mayor John Clum visited Tombstone for the first Helldorado celebration in 1929, he was unable to locate the grave of his wife Mary, who had been buried in Boot Hill.
While it is true that Tombstone's Boothill was actually closed in late 1886, because the new "City Cemetery" on Allen Street had opened.
The Halderman Brothers -- The Last To Be Burried In Tombstone's Boothill?
William Halderman was 21 years of age, and his brother Thomas was 18, at the time of their hangings.
While both came from influential pioneers in Texas, the Kokernot-Halderman family, the brothers were working for day wages as cowboys in Cochise County, Arizona.
In 1898, the Halderman brothers began feuding with 18 year-old Teddy Moore over a pair of young women named Rena and Mary Wilson.
According to later court findings, in November 1898, Moore threatened to kill William -- something he did a few times over the following months.
Finally, on April 6, 1899, Justice William Monmonier received a report from the owner of the Smith Ranch, Buck Smith, accusing the Halderman brothers of stealing and killing cattle.
A warrant was issued and the task of arresting the Haldermans fell onto Constable Chester Ainsworth, who was the brother of Arizona Attorney General Charles F. Ainsworth.
Constable Ainsworth first went from his office in Pearce to the Smith Ranch to ask one of the ranchers there if he would assist in apprehending the Haldermans.
According to the later testimony of R. Michael Wilson, Buck Smith refused to help and told the constable to continue on to the Moore Ranch house less than a mile away to enlist the help of Teddy Moore.
Constable Ainsworth did just that, and after deputizing Moore the two-men headed to the Halderman Ranch which was located a short distance away along Turkey Creek Canyon.
After finding the house empty, Ainsworth decided to check the Wilson Ranch, which was owned by John W. Wilson who lived there with his sons, Johnny and Tol, and his two daughters, Rena and Mary.
Accused of shooting Buck Smith's cattle and selling the meat, they were tracked to the southeast Arizona ranch of J. N. Wilson by Constable Chester Ainsworth and 18 year-old Teddy Moore.
Constable Ainsworth and Teddy Moore arrived at the Wilson Ranch house on the morning of April 7th, 1899, sometime just after dawn.
The two "lawmen" were side-by-side and approximately forty feet from the front porch of the house when Ainsworth read the arrest warrant aloud and demanded that the Halderman brothers come out peaceably.
The Halderman brothers were eating breakfast with J.W. Wilson their neighbor at his ranch when Ainsworth and Moore found them.
When it seemed as though the two young men were going to surrender without resisting, Constable Ainsworth suggested that they finish eating breakfast before leaving and pack some of their belongings for staying a few days in Pearce.
What began as a peaceful arrest ended in gunfire.
Some say that while inside the house, it became very evident to the Haldermans that Moore intended to do them harm instead of taking them to jail and they armed themselves.
So instead of going along peaceably, they reappeared at the two front doors of the house -- which were located at each end of the porch.
The Haldermans had only one rifle of their own and William armed himself with it. His brother Thomas took Mr. Wilson's rifle to use against the lawman and Moore.
According to the Haldermans later, as soon as they were seen with weapons in hand, both Ainsworth and Moore drew their side arms and began shooting into the house.
William responded by firing back, and after emptying his weapon he ran across the porch to his shocked brother to take up his rifle and continue shooting at Moore.
Unfortunately, however, it was during this time that Ainsworth was shot off his horse and killed, having been struck in the heart.
William later claimed that the death of Ainsworth was an accident and even said that he might have been killed by Moore.
After Ainsworth fell, Moore turned his horse around and started riding away from the house as fast as he could.
At about 150 yards away, William fired again and struck Moore in the bowels with a single bullet.
After the brief gunfight which Constable Chester L. Ainsworth was killed and his deputy, Teddy Moore, was mortally wounded, the Halderman brothers fled to New Mexico.
Believe it or not, though shot and dying, Moore was able to make it back home to the Moore Ranch. It's said that it was there where he bled to death in his mother's arms a few hours later.
Sometime before his death, Moore was able to tell his family what had happened. Death-bed statements being what they are, since he said that it was the Haldermans who fired first -- everyone took his last words as eyewitness testimony.
The following appeared in the newspaper the Pacific Reporter, Volume 60:
“ It appears from the record that on April 6, 1899, a complaint was lodged before W. [William] M. Monmonier, a justice of the peace for the precinct of Pearce, Cochise county, charging the Haldermans with having unlawfully killed cattle. A warrant was issued by the justice upon this complaint, and placed in the hands of one C. [Chester] L. Ainsworth, constable of the precinct, and a deputy sheriff [Teddy Moore] of the county.... They then went to the house of a neighbor by the name of [John W.] Wilson, where they found the defendants. Ainsworth and Moore rode to the front of the Wilson house, dismounted from their horses, and called the Haldermans out, where upon Ainsworth read his warrant of arrest to them. Both Haldermans expressed a willingness to go with the officer, but before starting, upon suggestion of the latter [Ainsworth], went into the house to get their breakfast. While they were inside, Ainsworth called to them, and told them, as they might be detained at Pierce [Pearce] for two or three days, to take with them such articles of wearing apparel [clothing] as they might need. Soon after, the Haldermans appeared, one at each of the two front doors of the house, armed with rifles, and at once opened fire, instantly killing Ainsworth, and mortally wounding Moore. As to the facts above stated, there is no substantial conflict in the evidence. The testimony of the witness for the prosecution, supported by the dying declaration of Moore, as to the circumstances of the shooting, is to the effect that at the time the Haldermans appeared at the doors, Ainsworth and Moore were both mounted, and a short distance from the house; that the Haldermans, as soon as they appeared, called to Ainsworth and Moore to hold up their hands, but without waiting, at once fired; that Ainsworth immediately fell from his horse, shot through the heart; that Moore turned his horse, and started off, but was shot through the bowels as he rode away; that after the shooting the Haldermans immediately fled. The story, as told by the defendants, was that between themselves and Moore had existed a deadly enmity; that, after the warrant had been read, they asked the constable how they were to be taken to Pierce; that they were then told that they would have to walk down to a neighboring ranch, where there was a conveyance of some sort; that; fearing that Moore might on some pretext seek occasion on the way down to the ranch to do them [the Halderman brothers] harm, they concluded while in the house to take their rifles with them; that, as soon as they appeared at the front of the house, Moore pulled his gun and fired; that William Halderman at once returned the fire, and continued shooting until he had emptied his gun, and, as Moore continued to shoot, he then ran to the other door, where his brother Thomas Halderman stood, and, seizing the latter's gun, fired again at Moore, but by accident killed Ainsworth; that, fearing [lynch] mob violence at the hands of the friends of Ainsworth, the two then left the country”.
The killings would become known as the "Shootout at Wilson Ranch."
On the day after the shooting, Cochise County Sheriff Scott White offered a $50 reward for the arrest of the Haldermans and a reward poster began circulating.
In 1899, $50 was more than a cowboy made in a month, soon information came in and the Haldermans were captured by Deputy Sid Mullen on April 12th while they were camped just across the border of New Mexico just east of Duncan.
The Haldermans were first held in the jail at Pearce, and were later transferred to Tombstone for their trial.
Early in the month of June, the court found the Haldermans guilty, convicted them of first-degree murder on June 11th, and sentenced them to hang on August 10th, 1900.
There was so much anger at the Halderman brothers, because the Constable was so liked.
A witness had made an affidavit that Moore had threatened the Haldermans before joining the two-man posse.
While awaiting execution, the Haldermans' family was trying its best to influence the court's decision in order "to prevent a stain on the name of one of the best pioneer families of Texas."
All in all, with all of their efforts, they were able to achieve was a delay of the eventual execution.
During that time, the Haldermans attempted to gather evidence which supported their claims that the allegations of cattle rustling were false and that the shootout was the result of a feud, rather than petty theft.
The Haldermans claimed that Moore was responsible for the stealing and killing the cattle, and that Moore was trying to frame them so he could then be free to woo Rena Wilson.
The Halderman family sent in an appeal in the Governor, but the application was sent directly to President William McKinley because Governor Nathan O. Murphy was out of state at the time.
President McKinley granted them a stay of execution until October 5th, 1900 so they could gather more evidence for their defense.
When he returned, Governor Murphy extended the stay, but the Haldermans' evidence did not materialize and the date of execution was set for November 16th, 1900.
It should be noted that initially, right after the shooting, the Wilson sisters substantiated Terry Moore deathbed claims.
Supposedly they did so because their father, in fear of what his neighbors would do if the brothers were released, threatened to punish them if they did otherwise.
It's true, Wilson's daughters had sworn an affidavit that one of the arresting party had fired the first shot but their father had ordered the girls to testify to the contrary.
Johnny Wilson, a son, witnessed the whole affair according to William but was not allowed to appear in court.
All in all, no evidence was introduced to convict Thomas Halderman. There was no testimony heard to convict Thomas.
Fact is that the jury simply included him in the verdict, even though one juror admitted the jury did not fully understand the court's instructions.
Buck Smith later came into evidence that Teddy Moore was the one who had killed his cattle and that Moore wanted the brothers to take the blame.
None of any of that mattered, There was simply no avoiding the hangman.
It was only after the Haldermans were sentenced to death that the Wilson sisters finally came forward and told the truth about what they had witnessed. It made no difference though.
The Kokernot-Halderman family claimed that the trial was unfair, being that the prosecutor was none other than Attorney General Charles L. Ainsworth, Chester Ainsworth's brother, and that the jury was "eager for a hanging."
And yes, make no mistake about it, justice was swift. Back then there was none of the modern non-sense that takes place today where a convicted murderer can sit on Death Row until he dies of old age and natural causes .
The shootout took place on April 7th, 1899, they were captured shortly afterwards on April 12th. Within two months, by June 11th they were convicted and ordered to hang on August 10th, 1899.
Because of delays, the order to execute was moved to November 16, 1900, And yes, the execution was carried out on November 16th as ordered.
Although only 100 invitations were sent out, a large crowd gathered to witness the hanging.
It's said that those who couldn't be near the gallows watched from the windows of the Old Cochise County Courthouse.
Unlike many hangings where the person being hanged cries and squirms or faints, both of the Haldermans were reported as having met their end rather bravely.
It is said that when the younger brother Thomas Halderman appeared from the jail, he said: "Hello Hombres! The sun's hot, ain't it?"
After climbing up the scaffold, older brother William is supposed to have said: "Nice looking crowd. Some of you fellers are shaking already."
Then, as he turned to his brother, William was reported as to have said: "Those people look alright."
Believe it or not, a moment later, Thomas placed a noose around his own neck while Sheriff White read the death warrant and his brother talked with a deputy named Bravin.
Imagine the scene, the Sheriff is reading, one brother is chatting, and the younger brother puts his own noose around his neck.
When Sheriff White was finished, he finally got around to asking the Halderman brothers if they wanted to say any last words.
William responded, "I have nothing to say and guess it would not do any good anyway. I forgive you all and hope you will forgive me."
William then requested time for a prayer so Reverend Alexander Elliott stepped forward to assist.
Black masks were then lowered over their heads and in unison the brother's called out, "Good-bye boys! Pray for us."
The trap door underneath their feet opened at exactly 12:40 P.M.
Thirteen minutes later, Thomas was pronounced dead. William died two minutes after him.
The doctors at the scene reported that Thomas had died of a broken neck, but William's death was caused by "the violent shock, compression of a vital nerve, and by strangulation."
As for the Wilson family, Rena later committed suicide for her involvement in the case. In 1913, her sister Mary was put in an insane asylum by her brother, Tol, who was killed shortly afterwards in what became known as the Cottonwood Canyon Murder.
As for the gallows?
The Tucson Citizen published an article on January 25th, 1912, as follows:
"TOMBSTONE - The historic scaffold which has been stored in the county courtyard adjoining the courthouse is no more. The last of it was cut up to furnish kindling for the fire of the county jail. The scaffold was built in the early part of the year 1884 by C.J. Ulmer, who at present is a resident of Yuma. It was ordered built by the board of supervisors for the purpose of the hanging of the five Bisbee murderers and was built so as to accomodate them all at once.
It was used on the 27th of March, 1884, at which time Dan Dowd, James Delaney, Tex Howard, Red Sample and J. Kely were hung, the trap being sprung by Sheriff Ward.
It was then stored away and kept until Nov. 16, 1900, when it was erected under the direction of Sheriff Scott White and was used for the execution of William and Thomas Halderman, who were convicted of the murder of Constable Ainsworth in the Swisshelm mountains the month of June 1899.
The scaffold was erected twice for service since that time but was never used."
-- end article.
Today, a replica of the gallows that were used for the hanging of the Halderman brothers is on display at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park.
The Old Cochise County Courthouse has also been restored so that it appears as it did in 1900, during the Haldermans' trial.
What became known as the Shootout at Wilson Ranch resulted in the final and most famous hanging in the history of Tombstone, Arizona.
So, were the Halderman brothers the last to be buried in Tombstone's Boothill graveyard? Well no!
While one can visit the their grave as well as that of others buried there, one can also visit the grave of a man by the name of Emmett Crook Nunnelley (1884 -1946).
Contrary to those who say it was the Halderman brothers who have the distinction of being the last to be buried there, fact is that Emmett Nunnelley is officially the last man buried in Tombstone's Boothill.
Not much is known about Mr. Nunnelley other than he was born in 1884. And that he volunteered many hours to helping restore the cemetery.
After the new cemetery was opened, the city made an exception and buried the Halderman brothers buried in Boothill.
As for Boothill, no one had any use for the graveyard so it was negected for years and sort of went to ruin.
Later, a citizen's group came together to clean it up and restore it. Along with the rest of the group, Nunnelley spent his last years volunteering to help restore the cemetery for visitors.
Close to death, his last request was to be laid to rest there.
When he passed in 1946, the city of Tombstone made an exception and allowed him to be buried there -- thus making him the last person to be buried in Tombstone's Boothill which is a registered National Monument today.
The Halderman Brothers -- Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona